So, why were there so many skirmishes between white nationalists and counter protesters that led to dozens being sent to the hospital? Both sides equipped with sticks, shields, helmets, and pepper spray went at it over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. White nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, which culminated in a 20-year-old Ohio man—James Alex Fields, Jr.—plowed through counter protesters, injuring nineteen and killing one. A federal investigation is now underway. There were over 1,000 police, first responders, and National Guardsmen in the area. This should not have descended into the brawl that erupted, but it seems the police did nothing to quell the violence, at least not immediately (via ProPublica):
There was nothing haphazard about the violence that erupted today in this bucolic town in Virginia’s heartland. At about 10 a.m. today, at one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.
Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing.
It was a scene that played out over and over in Charlottesville as law enforcement confronted the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades. We walked the streets beginning in the early morning hours and repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.
Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy defended the police tactics. “I’m not in the business of throwing our police department under the bus, because they’re doing the best job they can, “ said Bellamy. “I don’t think the police officers were just twiddling their thumbs.”
The skirmishes culminated in what appears to have been an act of domestic terrorism, with a driver ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists on a busy downtown street, killing one and injuring 19 according to the latest information from city officials. Charlottesville authorities tonight reported that a 20-year-old Ohio man had been arrested and had been charged with murder.
Anger over the delayed response was reported from everyone, according to The Washington Post:
“The worst part is that people got hurt, and the police stood by and didn’t do a g------- thing,” David Copper, 70, of Staunton, Va., said after an initial morning melee at a park that went unchecked by police for several minutes.
At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) declared a state of emergency about 11 a.m. and activated the Virginia National Guard.
“The whole point is to have overwhelming force so that people don’t get the idea they can do these kinds of things and get away with it,” said Charles H. Ramsey, who headed both the District and Philadelphia police departments.
Demonstrators and counterdemonstrators “need to be in sight and sound of each other, but somebody has to be in between,” he said. “That’s usually the police.”
Of course, law enforcement is one of the toughest jobs in the country. They’ve been kicked in the teeth by the Left and liberal media, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune from criticism. In this case, Charlottesville seems to be a replay of Ferguson concerning inaction. No, no looting, vandalism, or arson occurred in Charlottesville, but the Missouri police and National Guard were deployed and did nothing to quell the anarchy. Then again, Gov. Terry McAuliffe noted that many attendees were armed and dangerous, which complicated a direct and rapid response (via Business Insider):
McAuliffe told The New York Times in an impromptu street interview Sunday morning that police in Charlottesville did their best considering the circumstances.
“It’s easy to criticize, but I can tell you this, 80% of the people here had semiautomatic weapons," McAuliffe said.
Though McAuliffe strongly commended law enforcement's handling of the event, he appeared to suggest that police were unprepared for who actually showed up to the rally.
“You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army ... I was just talking to the State Police upstairs; [the militia members] had better equipment than our State Police had,” McAuliffe said. “And yet not a shot was fired, zero property damage.”
McAuliffe's response that law enforcement's handling of the violence was successful because there were no bullets fired and "zero property damage" would appear to ignore that dozens were left injured and a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when an apparent white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd.
McAuliffe, for his part, suggested that Heyer's death couldn't have been prevented.
“You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon. He is a terrorist,” he said.
There are no good angles to this story.
UPDATE: Via Stephen Gutowski of The Washington Free Beacon, VA State Police say they weren't outgunned, contrary to governor's claims:
The Virginia State Police were prepared for the protests-turned-riots in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday that left three dead and dozens injured despite what Governor Terry McAuliffe (D.) has said publicly, a state police spokesperson told the Washington Free Beacon on Monday.
"No, the state police did not have inferior equipment," Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police public relations manager, told the Free Beacon. "Our personnel are equipped, and were equipped, with the necessary protective and tactical gear for their safety and, obviously, to protect those that were in attendance of the event."
The State Police did not release specifics on what kind of equipment they employed during the event but did say its officers were well prepared for what they faced on Saturday.
"We don't release our tactical gear or anything of that nature for the protective purposes of our law enforcement," Geller said. "They had the necessary inventory and gear that they needed for this event. There were no shots fired at the event or anything of that nature but our folks had the proper gear and tactical equipment they needed in order to safeguard themselves and everybody in attendance."